By Abigail Chloe Chew

Abigail is currently on the NUS Overseas Colleges Programme (NOC) in New York. The NOC programme places students in entrepreneurial hubs around the world, and students get a chance to intern at technology-based start-ups. Based in the Big Apple, she works for a tech start-up as a Digital Marketing and Accounts Specialist.

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A couple of weeks ago, a group of us got a chance to meet the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day reception in New York. 

During the National Day reception, I had the good fortune of speaking to PM Lee. Through our short exchange, it made me reflect on my personal journey in the tech and entrepreneurship space. 

Here are two work habits I’ve picked up:

Always ask: How can this problem be alleviated through technology?

I’ve had the good fortune of being in organisations that experience high attrition rates due to extremely manual processes – where volunteer rosters were done manually and information was still collected through pen and paper. Why was it a good thing? Because when I went on to work for a company that uses technology to solve that very issue, I could not be more thankful for what they were doing. I could now leverage on my knowledge of this new solution to help others look at their problem from another perspective.

And that is the way I have grown to look at problems and think about solutions. The limits of technology are constantly being challenged and new breakthroughs are being discovered every day. There will always be new and better ways to solve issues in the world – and that’s the beauty of technology that I’ve grown to appreciate. 

Always ask: What is it about what you’re doing that’s different?

If your idea offers something different, is it actually that much better than people would switch over to your idea?

Back up just to about ten years prior – when smartphones were growing increasingly popular and people were ditching their Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, there was a market for phone apps that could do just about anything. You could colour correct photos and edit videos, track your expenses, stream videos and more all within the palm of your hand. 

There was a time where a market grew for sharing GIFs on social media sites – and the two biggest players were Boomerang and PHHHOTO. Despite both sites offering something unique, how did Instagram’s Boomerang feature find more success than PHHHOTO? I, for one, was an extremely big fan of what PHHHOTO was doing and used their application practically on an everyday basis. But when their company shut down, I went back to using Boomerang almost immediately. Here’s the answer – Boomerang leveraged on an extremely successful medium to boost their product, and PHHHOTO essentially tried to create their own medium which eventually failed to take off. 

Over time, the market for phone applications have grown so rapidly – and applications can do just about anything – you can unlock office doors, track how many flights of stairs you climbed today, look for the best restaurants in your vicinity and so much more. In a market so saturated full of products with similar offerings, what is it about the top players that make them the best? If your idea offers something different, is it actually that much better that people would switch over to your idea?

Dare to dream bigger

The best thing about being in New York has been to witness the sheer scale of their operations. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how a start-up idea could grow to be widely loved in states across the country. And that same potential can be brought back home. Let’s learn to dream a little bigger.

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